Although not the most popular travel destination in neither Africa nor South America, so do like to see the island (every now and then). Others go to Ascension Island as part of their job.
Regardless of your purpose of travel for Ascension Island, you do need to know that everything is expensive here – literally everything.
Then again, it is an extremely remote island.
The last thing you would want to do is roam internationally on Ascension Island.
Mostly because most operators do not have roaming agreements with Ascension Island.
But also because the roaming rates are basically highway robbery. Or piracy because we are talking about an island.
So how expensive are SIM cards on Ascension Island, and how much will data cost you?
You can get a Sure Ascension Island Pay As You Go SIM card, the only SIM card available here, for 32.50 SHP (45 USD) with 10 SHP (13.80 USD) in credit. The largest data package with 250 MB costs 20 SHP (27.64 USD).
No, that was not a typo – MB, not GB. The island does not even have a data package with 1 GB for prepaid customers.
Not only that, but speeds are slow here too to add insult to injury.
Even then, you probably want to stay connected while on Ascension Island. Otherwise, you would not be on this guide.
In this guide, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card on Ascension Island. Let's go.
Original publication: 17th of July 2020. Last updated: 22nd of September 2022.
Table of Contents
Can You Buy a SIM Card on Ascension Island?
Anyone visiting Ascension Island can buy a SIM card from the only mobile operator – Sure Ascension Island (Sure South Atlantic) – without any restrictions.
Do note that your phone needs to support the right frequencies to use it while on Ascension Island.
Moreover, your phone needs to be SIM-lock-free (unlocked) to use local SIM cards.
Where Can You Buy a SIM Card on Ascension Island?
You can get an Ascension Island SIM Card in the official Sure Ascension Island store in Georgetown. It is not possible to buy SIM cards at RAF Ascension Island Airport (Wideawake Airfield/Ascension Island Auxiliary Field).
You can expect to pay the following for an Ascension Island SIM card:
- Sure Ascension Island (Sure South Atlantic): 30 SHP
Can You Use Your Phone on Ascension Island?
Ascension Island uses GSM technology for mobile communications. CDMA phones will not work on Ascension Island. However, there is a 99% chance that your phone supports GSM.
If you bought your phone in Africa, Asia, Europe, or Oceania (ITU regions 1 & 3), you should not experience any issues with using your phone on Ascension Island. Do note that there is no 3G on Ascension Island.
If you purchased your phone in the Americas (ITU Region 2) and have a low/medium-end device (without Tri-Band or Quad-Band) support, then there is a possibility you cannot use your phone when on Ascension Island or can only on 2G.
If you have a medium/high-end device with Tri-Band or Quad-Band support, you can use your phone on Ascension Island.
Mobile Operator, Networks, and Frequencies on Ascension Island
Ascension Island has one mobile network operator:
- Sure Ascension Island (Sure South Atlantic)
The following frequencies are on Ascension Island:
- 2G: 900 MHz
- 3G: N/A
- 4G/LTE: 1800 MHz (Band 3)
You can learn more about frequencies in the video below.
To check whether your phone will work on Ascension Island, check out this page by Will My Phone Work (may be outdated or inaccurate at times).
Again, make sure your phone is unlocked. Otherwise, you will not be able to use any SIM card except the one from your home operator (meaning you have to roam internationally or buy another unlocked phone that does support the frequencies listed above).
If you want to learn how international roaming works, this guide explains it in-depth. If you wonder why it is often so expensive to roam, this article explains the hidden reason they do not want you to know.
5G NR on Ascension Island
5G is not available on Ascension Island as of 2021. The local government nor Sure Ascension Island (Sure South Atlantic) have not made plans or statements on when 5G will be rolled out on the island.
Best SIM Card on Ascension Island
If you want to buy the best SIM card on Ascension Island, then Sure is your only option. Do note that the price of 1 GB of data will cost you more than 100 SHP.
SIM Card Registration on Ascension Island
SIM card registration, with the use of your personal information (such as your passport), is not required when buying a SIM card on Ascension Island.
Ascension Island Mobile Internet Prices & Insights
The Ascension Island is a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean. The island is still thousands of kilometers away from any shore.
Unlike other island nations in Africa that are relatively close to continental Africa (Cape Verde, Comoros, Madagascar, Mayotte, and Réunion), Ascension Island, together with Saint Helena and Tristan da Cunha, are not linked to any submarine cables.
As a result, they have to rely on satellite connections, which are much slower than submarine cables and much more expensive.
Even the government of Ascension Island states that the use of the internet is expensive in their information for new Ascension Island Government Staff document and confirms the satellite use and slowness of the internet.
To give you an idea of how expensive satellite use is, the largest prepaid data bundle you can get is 250 MB for 20 SHP, which comes down to about 25 USD. So 1 GB would cost you about 100 SHP (125 USD).
(Un)fortunately, Sure Ascension Island does not allow you to purchase multiple data bundles at the same time. So you are either stuck at 250 MB for 20 SHP or use more data at standard data rates upon exhausting your data bundle.
Let’s say you purchase the 250 MB bundles (20 SHP – 25 USD) and use up to 1 GB while you are on the island. The standard data rate is 0.12 SHP/MB. 1024 MB – 250 MB = 774 MB. 0.12 SHP * 774 MB = 92.88 SHP (115.95 USD). 92.88 SHP + 20 SHP = 112.88 SHP (140.90 USD).
1 GB of data on Ascension Island would cost at least 140.90 USD, triple the price average price for 1 GB of data in Equatorial Guinea, the most expensive country to get mobile data on mainland Africa.
If you plan on using free WIFI hotspots instead while on Ascension Islands to avoid these high costs, think again.
Residential broadband internet packages are priced at 56.98 SHP for 4 GB/month and 139.75 SHP for about 14 GB/month with capped download speeds (1 Mbps and 1.5 Mbps, respectively), according to Sure Ascension Island.
Businesses can get around 67 GB/month for 1448.03 SHP. So do not expect to find (m)any open WIFI connections while on Ascension Island.
The cable will also have branches to Ascension Island, which will (finally) result in more accessible and affordable internet, as the island territory will not have to depend on satellites anymore.
The SEAx1 cable currently has a Ready For Service date (RFS) in the 3rd quarter of 2021. Hopefully, affordable and fast internet will be a thing on Ascension Island from then on.
Currency on Ascension Island
Ascension Island uses the Saint Helena Pound with the symbol SHP (which will be used throughout this article).
However, SHP is pegged 1:1 to the Pound Sterling, also known as the British Pound (Sterling) – GBP.
This means that 1 SHP = 1 GBP, 10 SHP = 10 GBP, and 100 SHP = 100 GBP.
GBP is widely accepted on the island. If you decide to pay in GBP, expect your change back in SHP.
Prices on Ascension Island are listed in £. For example, 25 SHP = £25. For reference, below are some exchange rates between SHP and USD (US Dollars – Rounded):
- 1 SHP = 1.40 USD
- 10 SHP = 13.80 USD
- 100 SHP = 138.20 USD
For up-to-date SHP:USD exchange rates, search SHP to USD on Google, or replace USD with the currency you use.
Tip: use GBP instead. GBP exchange rates are always more accurate than SHP exchange rates.
If your credit/debit card charges you foreign exchange fees, get yourself a Wise Borderless Account and Debit Card.
Their fees are MUCH lower than banks, and credit card companies charge you (and Wise is transparent about their fees, unlike banks).
Ascension Island Prepaid SIM Card
Below, I will guide you through Sure Ascension Island and go through:
- Background information
- Mobile coverage
- SIM card types, prices, and availability
- Recharge / top-up information
- Combo plans, data plans, and special packs (such as social media packs)
With that being said, let’s see what Ascension Island has to offer to us.
Sure Ascension Island
Sure Ascension Island, just Sure – but officially known as Sure South Atlantic – is the sole operator on Ascension Island. It has a(n expensive) monopoly on the island.
Sure uses the following frequencies:
- 2G: 900 MHz
- 3G: N/A
- 4G/LTE: 1800 MHz (Band 3)
Coverage – Sure Ascension Island
Sure has decent coverage throughout Ascension Island.
Ascension Island is, as the name implies, an island. It is mountainous, and the population is concentrated around various spots throughout the island.
Therefore, you will mostly get reception in busy areas (Georgetown) and around the major roads.
The coverage map shown is not an accurate representation because of the low number of users that use the Speedtest app for tests (it is simply too expensive to do so).
Still, you can expect coverage near the roads around the whole island.
SIM Card Price – Sure Ascension Island
You can buy a Sure SIM card, called Sure Pay As You Go (PAYG), for 32.50 SHP with 10 SHP in credit in the Sure store in Georgetown.
You may have to call 453 to activate your Sure SIM card.
Sure SIM cards become inactive (deactivated) if there has been no activity for 60 days (no top-up, no data used, no call made, or no SMS sent for 60 days).
Sure SIM cards get deactivated if there has been no activity for 60 days (no top-up for 60 days or no activity for 60 days).
Top-Up, Recharge & Balance Check – Sure Ascension Island
Sure top-up cards are sold at the Sure store and other stores, including grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas stations.
To top up your Sure SIM card, dial *177*VoucherCode*. The same can be done by calling 177.
For example, if your voucher code is 123456, you would dial *177*123456#.
Dial *178# to check your Sure balance. The same can be done by calling 178.
Packages, Plans, Bundles & Offers – Sure Ascension Island
Sure has only one data-featured bundle: the Data Bundle.
The following Data Bundles are available:
|10 SHP||100 MB||30 days||*173*100#|
|20 SHP||250 MB||30 days||*173*250#|
These are, indeed, small data bundles. For comparison, the standard data rate is 0.12 SHP/MB, which comes down to about 120 SHP/GB.
APN/Internet Settings – Sure Ascension Island
- Name: SUREASC
- APN: SUREASC
Note: leave anything not mentioned above untouched.
Is There A Cheaper Way to Get Mobile Data on Ascension Island?
Normally, getting a local prepaid SIM card of the destination you are visiting is the best way to stay connected when traveling. However, you have already learned that SIM cards and mobile data are expensive io Ascension Island.
Reasonably priced mobile hotspots do not work here.
My favorite international SIM card, Surfroam, will charge you 15 EUR/MB or 15 360 EUR/GB. Travel SIM cards covering Ascension islands do not seem to exist (and if you manage to find one, they will charge you outrageous rates.
International roaming is usually expensive, especially compared to local data or combo packages.
Sure Ascension Island has partnered up with several operators abroad, which allow them to roam internationally on Ascension Island, which are:
|Roaming Partner||Services Available||Service Type|
|O2 UK||Voice, SMS & Data||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|Vodafone UK||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|3 Austria||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|Sure Falkland Islands||Voice, SMS & Data||Postpaid|
|Ooredoo Qatar||Voice, SMS & Data||Postpaid|
|Verizon (USA)||Voice & SMS||Postpaid|
|SOFTBANK Corp (Japan)||Voice & SMS||Postpaid|
|MTN (South Africa)||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|Telecom Italia (TIM)||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|Sure – Jersey / Guernsey & Isle of Man||Voice & SMS||Postpaid|
|T-Mobile USA||Voice & SMS||Postpaid|
|CV Móvel (Cape Verde)||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
|Cell C (South Africa)||Voice & SMS||Postpaid|
|Sure St Helena*||Voice & SMS||Prepaid & Postpaid|
* Not officially mentioned on the roaming page of Sure Ascension Island, but Sure St Helena confirms you can roam with a Sure St Helena SIM card on Ascension Island (1 SHP/min – SMS rate is unknown)
That is a relatively small list. Moreover, only three operators can data roam on Ascension Island, which are:
O2 UK Roaming on Ascension Island
O2 UK lists St Helena instead as a destination you can roam with if you have an O2 business/corporate subscription.
St Helena, Ascension Island, and Tristan da Cunha are often grouped together, so I assume those rates apply to Ascension Island as well.
With O2 UK’s business roaming, you have two options for roaming on Ascension Island: Rest of World 24 Hour Pass & Rest of the World 30 Pass.
The Rest of the World 24 hour pass costs 7.50 GBP and comes with 5 MB for 24 hours.
Moreover, you will be charged 1.20 GBP/min for making a local call or a call back to the UK. Incoming calls are charged at 0.85 GBP/min, and sending an SMS will cost you 0.40 GBP.
The Rest of the World 30 Day Pass costs 99 GBP and comes with 50 MB for 30 days.
A local call or a call to the UK will costs you 1.20 GBP/min. Receiving a call costs 0.85 GBP/min, and sending an SMS will cost you 0.40 GBP/SMS.
Ooredoo Qatar Roaming on Ascension Island
Sure Falkland Island Roaming on Ascension Island
Sure Falkland Islands only lists their call and SMS rates. Moreover, Sure Ascension Island is not even mentioned on their preferred roaming partners list.
In short, there does not seem to be a cheaper way to get on the internet while on Ascension Island, unless you are staying there for more than a year.
Then you can consider getting a postpaid plan that comes with better benefits, but they require a 12-month commitment, which is not reasonable for short-term visitors.
The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling on Ascension Island
Getting a SIM card from Sure would be your only option when considering an Ascension Island SIM card.
Local Prepaid SIM Card in Other African Countries
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